How do eccentric exercises help?
Eccentric training helps not only to increase your range of motion and lengthen your muscles, but also to strengthen your muscle tissue and allow it to create more force at a greater angle, protecting them from injury.
So what is eccentric contraction? Eccentric contraction is a form of muscular contraction whereby the muscle is in a lengthened position whilst under tension. Examples of eccentric contraction include the downward phase of a bicep curl (when you straighten your arms) and the downward phase of a squat (as you descend into a squat). Slowing down in these movements promotes eccentric contraction in the muscles.
Eccentric training facilitates increased muscle flexibility via sarcomerogenesis – the process of laying down new muscular structures when stretched beyond their normal limits. It increases the lengths of muscle fibres at the end ranges of motion, resulting in physiological muscle length adaptations which allow extra fibres to grow. This helps improve your muscular flexibility and strength in the long run.
If you do Pilates and Yoga, then you would have already been doing eccentric movements in class. Many Pilates and Yoga movements focus on lengthening the muscles while under load. For example, in the roll down part of the ‘roll up’ exercise where we lengthen the torso against gravity as we slowed roll down onto the mat.